The Continuity Conundrum

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

One of the more difficult things when writing a novel—especially the first time out—is ensuring that everything is consistent and correct.

There’s nothing more funny (and really kinda embarrassing) than having a female protagonist with raven-black eyes in the opening and then sparrow-brown a few chapters later.  Contacts?  Iris transplant?  Methinks not.  We-ell, maybe, if you’re writing sci-fi / fantasy.

It’s fine to write off the cuff.  Not so fine not to do a final edit or two, or three.  Editing helps find flaws and mistakes.  But you know that.  So kudos to you.

And yes (been there!), it’s tough recalling what happened to Susie Creamcheese on page 18, or what she wore.  It may not be even matter.  But if good ol’ Susie spoke with an Arkansan accent, replete with local expressions, and lost it later on, your integrity as a writer could come into question.  Errors happen, sure.  Small ones are usually forgivable.  Glaring ones, not so much.

So, what areas should you be consistent with?

  • characters’ appearances & traits
  • characters’ names (I confess I, too, have mixed them up and/or changed them halfway through, slap on hand to me)
  • facts
  • locations, settings & places
  • seasons & time/timing
  • plot & action, and
  • things (if Susie’s riding a bike in Chapter 5 due to a fear of driving, why is she steering a convertible down the I-90 in Chapter 19?).

If you’re not going to do an outline before you start, that’s fine (some do, some don’t, including yours truly).  What you should do, as advice from one fellow writer to another: keep a scene breakdown and a character rundownNeither need be lengthy.

As I write the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, I tend to have quite the extensive character rundown.  I’m always adding/updating.  Having both really does help with continuity (trust me on that).  Here’s how you might want to approach them.

Scene breakdown:

  • list chapters and each scene within
  • record major events (Susie and Lee went sailing; Lee fell off the sailboat; a strange surfer rescued Lee)
  • note day, time, and weather
  • have a “to do (later)” box so you remember something needs fixing/adding.

Character rundown:

  • list names, ages, characteristics, traits, likes and dislikes
  • note people and events important in a character’s life that play a part in the plot
  • do up a family history (this doesn’t have to be long, but anything that influences or shapes your characters’ lives should be documented).

Yes, both take extra time, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Remember:

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

= Credibility.

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The Beginnings of E-book Nirvana

Maybe first and foremost let’s decide how to spell that?  Ebook, e-book, or E-Book?  Methinks e-book (coz it works for l’il ol’ me.)

The two main types of publishing—e-book versus traditional—have been touched upon in previous posts.  Now, how about actually writing one?

It’s something you’ve thought and dreamed about, but haven’t yet done.  Check a reason:

  • lassoing time (it’s proven as difficult to snare as a rampaging bull)
  • picking a genre from a cornucopia of possibilities (mystery? romance? western? steampunk?!)
  • deciding between fiction or nonfiction (do I create exploits for crazy characters or advise others on how to construct cuckoo clocks?)
  • settling on a story, plot, and/or focus (huh? uh?)
  • getting <bleeping> started when you’re <bleeping> unsure what to do, and/or
  • other: ____________ (you fill in the blank).

Now that you’ve recognized why you haven’t written one, you can kiss off the reason(s) and move forward, and actually start writing.

Awesome. You’ve got an idea—a tale (or teachings) screaming to be shared!  Go for it.  Put the pedal to the metal, or fingers to the keyboard.  Pen to paper [still] works, too.

Before beginning your chef-d’œuvre, it might be best to determine:

  • where you’re going to write: distractions (pets, kids, partners, coworkers, outdoor views) should be at a minimum, unless you possess superhero skill at blocking out all
  • when you’re going to write; sticking to set schedules is about as easy leaping tall buildings, but figure out the best time of day/night to sit down and then do it.

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If the plan is to write fiction, check out authors writing in your genre.  If it’s nonfiction, research websites and blogs, and authors, centering on the same or similar topic.

Read some e-books in your given genre.  See what’s out there and what’s popular.

Do research before or while you write, or after the first draft (whatever works best for you).  Check facts and stats, settings and locales.  There’s nothing worse than glaring errors (like a famous institution located in the wrong part of town, or a misspelled product or place).

When working on your first draft, try not to worry too much about grammar or typos, logistics or continuity.  Just go with the flow.  Get it all down, then clean up (e-d-i-t).

You may want to do an outline before you start writing.  Some writers do, some (like me) don’t so, again, do what works for you.  You’ll figure it out.

Now, if you’ve got a blog going, consider engaging your viewers and visitors.  Let them know what you’re up to.  Maybe you’d like to request their input?

When that final edit is complete, take a deep breath, and pat yourself [profusely] on the back.  Find an e-publisher and show [off] your baby to the world!

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Aloooooooooooooooooooooo-hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhha

Some folks have asked why the three of us decided to set up shop on Oahu, considering the three of us had never even been to the Islands.

It was my idea.  Just like I thought up the name The Triple Threat Investigation Agency.  JJ never liked it and Linda wasn’t crazy about it, but they agreed to it regardless.  Gotta love those two.

Every state has different “rules” about how to set up private eye shingles.  Bearing that in mind—okay, okay, finding out the hard way—I sorta pointed a finger at a map and Hawaii it was.

I don’t think any one of us regrets the move: we love the Aloha State.  Agency and careers aside, there’s so much to embrace:

  • balmy trade winds that tickle all over (and keep the sweat at bay)
  • shopping outlets and malls that never disappoint
  • subtle lingering scents like sweet plumeria and briny ocean air that envelop like soft silk
  • positive energy and vibes that boost optimism and hope
  • vast and vibrant colors that seem surreal sometimes
  • amazing rainbows (galore!)
  • stunning landscapes and seascapes
  • food trucks and kiosks and restaurants in abundance
  • shopping outlets and malls that never disappoint . . . oh, I mentioned that already, didn’t I? . . . but they are awesome.

The list goes on.  And never mind the countless things to do, like sunrise runs and jogs (not this gal’s cup o’ tea), walks along the beach, festivals and parades, and nummy Mai-Tais and . . . yeah, we really love Hawaii.

Just as we love our P.I. lives.  If you’re ever in Chinatown, drop by the agency (we’re not shy).

˜ A haupia-sweet aloha from yours truly (Rey).  ˜

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Landing a Landing Page

Recently, we touched upon setting up a blog.  Now, what about a landing page?  (To be honest, I’d not much considered it until a few articles and “chats” fell into my lap last week.)

What’s a landing page, you may wonder.  It’s a single [unique] web page on your website.  Sometimes called a destination page or lead-capture page, that’s exactly what it does: it leads a visitor or viewer to you, it “captures” his/her attention.  It’s either aimed at the intended promotion of a company, product or service, or to inform a viewer of something.

There are actually two types: Click Through and Lead Generation (the aforementioned lead-capture page).

  • The former encourages a visitor to click through to another page . . . motivating him/her [hopefully] to make a decision about buying something, and then filling that shopping cart.
  • The latter is used to obtain user info, like names and email addresses. Usually, the signer-upper will get something in return—such as regular blog posts, vouchers, discounts, free trials, demos, and gifts (among many other things).

Is a landing page really necessary, you may also wonder.  Yeah, it is . . . if you want to increase your visitor-to-lead conversion rates.  Because, yeah, you want to capture leads!

Leads = data.  Data = insight.  Insight = progress.  Progress = success.

Apparently, they’re fun and easy to use.  I li-ike that, because those familiar with me know I can suck when it comes to anything technical—just ask me about that elusive [much dreamed of] mailing list.  <LMAO>

When you decide to design a landing page, write and create it with one business objective in mind.  What is it you’re trying to “market”?

As I always say, ad nauseam I know, do your due diligence.  There’s tons of information out there on landing pages.  And there are some awesome sites that offer great ideas.

Now, I’m not endorsing these, but if you’re interested in learning about landing pages, here are three sites you may want to visit.

Instapage has reviewed 100 landing pages, and offers pros and cons of why they work (or don’t).  Worth checking out!

https://instapage.com/blog/landing-page-examples

Unbounce has “The Landing Page Conversion Course”.  Find it at:

http://do.thelandingpagecourse.com.

One Page Love (“the ultimate showcase of One Page websites”) has some interesting deals and free templates.  For a nominal fee, you can also get a critique of your “one-pager”.  (I have to confess, I really like the comfy, easy-going feel of this site and may just—once I get my own landing page created—have them take a gander.)

https://onepagelove.com/gallery/landing-page

Happy landings!

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Bloggin’ Bonanza

Have we touched upon actually starting a blog?  Methinks maybe not.  So-o, let’s give it some thought.

Why have your own blog?

  • Coz it’s a great way to share thoughts, ideas, reviews—the sky’s the limit!  It puts you out there: you can shine like a star.
  • Coz it can prove a bonanza (not the show, but the jackpot).  It can serve as a fabulous way of generating income (personally, I’m still figuring that out on this end, but it’s a definite objective down the blogging road).

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For those not yet blogging, but giving it serious consideration, you may want to start with some basic background/information gathering.  But that said, why not simply jump in and learn as you go?  I more or less did.  The only thing I did before setting up A Writer’s Grab-Bag was to determine which blog-publishing service / platform to use.  A lot of people had great things to say about WordPress, so WordPress it was; you choose the one that feels right for you.

Happy news for those counting nickels (like I seem to perpetually be)—a blog can be set up and designed for free.  It depends on who you go with and what options and type of reach you’re contemplating . . . and what you’re willing to do without.

Remember, though:  free = limitations.

Decide whether you want a selfhosted blog or hosted one.  The former resides on your own server.  Most people generally, however, go for the latter and pay a third-party to host their blogThis allows for a lot of benefits: a more professional appearance, additional bandwidth and memory, and control over your blog in terms of layout and SEO, among other things.  If you go with a hosted blog, yes, you will have to put out a few of those nickels.  The good thing, though, is you get to focus on your posting and not worry about configuring and all that annoying technical sh-uh-stuff.

Figure out your domain name; think of something catchy, easy to recall, and indicative of your blog.

Part of the fun is designing the blog.  The scheme and layout options are endless!  Feeling daunted, unsure?  Check out blogs that cater to the audience you want to attract.   Scrutinize successful ones.  Research ideas.  Then go for it.  Design one that reflects you and your blog content.  Add those bells and whistles!  You can do it.

Enough food for thought?  Methinks likely not.  But perhaps sufficient enough for you to take the plunge into the blogging foray.  Just bear in mind: there’s a ton (!) of resources out there for beginner/novice bloggers (which I still am), including support groups and communities.  You don’t have to go it alone . . . but you should definitely go for it!

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! Time to Get Motivated !

Let’s find ways of getting motivated—to move beyond fear’s stagnation, battle a lack of confidence, quell a bout of ennui, or whatever it is that’s tethering us in place with super-thick bungee cords.

Where to start?  By un-tethering those cords and determining what needs doing.  What’s the goal or objective?  Mine: to create an extensive mailing list, have a recognizable name and successful blog, to assist fellow writers, and maybe offer editing advice and/or services.  That’s a lot to accomplish with limited time; in fact, that’s a lot to accomplish in any span, period.  The logical thing to do then is focus on one objective at a time.  For me, the mailing list is an excellent one to begin with.  As such, I should learn all I can about what makes a successful one and then apply that knowledge.

Having an objective is one thing; being motivated (enthused, stimulated) to make it happen is equally important.  Viewing the works/products of others (in my case, successful authors) will provide creative ideas.  Seeing their achievements will offer encouragement.

Having a timeframe is a great idea: set one that’s realistic.  As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day; so don’t decide to accomplish your goal in 24 hours.  You may want to post about it or simply stick a reminder on your fridge: keep the intent [and wished-for outcome] readily in view and accessible.

You may have a few hours, or days, where motivation just ain’t happening.  That’s okay.  It’s like writer’s block: a temporary time-out.  Don’t fret and don’t give up.  It will come.  Keep the faith.

If necessary, find inspiration.  Read inspirational quotes, watch a persuasive thought-provoking video, talk to a friend, join an on-line community (you’d be amazed how many offer valuable support and advice).  Or maybe take a long walk, get some [relatively] fresh air, and un-jumble thoughts.

Stop finding excuses.  <ROTFL>  I have a great [true] one—that lack of time.  But, at the end of the day, it’s exactly that: a X*&!%$ excuse (so here’s a kick in the butt to myself).  If there are only 30 minutes of “personal” time per day, make the most of them: read, learn, absorb, apply!

Sure, some tasks aren’t that pleasurable, but they need to get done.  So focus on the components of the goal that are fun and run with them.  The rest will fall into place.  Once you’ve discovered enough external motivation, realize it internally.  It’s there and it’s in you.  You’ve got what it takes.

Baby steps are something I’ve referred to in Typepad posts—how those teeny-tiny strides may seem like they’re not progressing us too quickly or very far, but the fact of the matter is they are.  Moving slowly is actually a good thing: it allows us time to absorb and assimilate (kinda like Star Trek Borgs, but in a positive way).

These are but a few off-the-cuff ideas to get going.  I could offer more, but this is a post, not a dissertation.  . . . That said (speaking of goals), one day there’ll be a deck or vid on this blog.  In fact, there’ll be a few.  <LOA>  But one baby step at a time, my friends.  One baby step—and goal—at a time.

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Getting Motivated . . . or . . . Finding that Elusive Mojo

There’s [still-lllllllllllllllllll] a knee-high heap of articles and emails to read re getting a mailing list going, attracting viewers/followers, and making big bucks.  Should I laugh or weep?

It’s kinda like suffering from writer’s block—you’re stuck, determining what direction to take, what to do first, and who to attract.  The thing about becoming motivated is that you may already be completing or accomplishing things, but you’re just not quite focused or informed enough to impel yourself that little bit further.

Or you may have a comfortable routine that suits your needs.  There’s no need to learn more; you just continue doing what you’re doing.  <pointing finger at moi>

Every day, I whip up a brief Facebook post for my Triple Threat private-eye gals.  I’ll add a little pic, maybe an emoji.  Voilà!  Every Wednesday and Saturday, I create a WordPress post or page related to writing or my lovely lady detectives.  Voilà!  Damn, I’m good.  And let’s not forget that Typepad blog that no one visits; there’s a weekly post there, too.  Damn, I’m really good.

. . . Not really<LMAO>  I haven’t motivated myself to learn [more] about—or apply—those [%!@!] mailing lists I post about.  No ifs or buts: they’re vital to success.  As such, I can hardly question, or grumble about, why I’ve not attracted more than a couple of followers.  My [really] bad.

But, in deference to self, it’s a question of time, too.  There’s very little of it in my current life (given a full-time job and taking care of Mom), so I apply it where I can: posting and writing.  If I don’t do either, then I’m a non-entity.  But if I don’t promote/market, then I’m a non-entity, too.

LMAO again.  The intention had been to post about motivation and I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent about myself.  Look for “Part 2” next week on tips/strategies for you [us] to get motivated and inspired.  Let’s locate that elusive mojo!

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Forever Poi – Ain’t Takin’ Forever . . . or . . . Shameless Self-Promotion

Okay, not really shameless; just promotion.  If I don’t toot my own horn, who will?  (One day, that mail list / campaign will happen and when it does, hopefully, my followers will be happy to toot-toot-toot along.)

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On the Forever Poi front, the third official case for the Triple Threat Investigation Agency trio: it’s slowly but surely wrapping up.  In fact, JJ, Rey and Linda want you to know that this latest case is moving along “swimmingly well”.

The gals have a lot of leads, suspicions and “gut feelings”, but no tangible proof—yet.  But they also have have stick-to-it-tiveness (and a penchant for doing things slightly illegally), so there’s little doubt that they’ll be fingering the culprit(s) soon.

Here’s some insight into their “swimmingly well” success so far:

“Man, can that dude yammer.  He’s worse than Grandma Columba,” Rey muttered under her breath.

We’d just received a ten-minute “lecture” from Ald Ives after he and his team had completed a preliminary assessment of Bizz Waxx and the studio.

The three of us were seated in a corner on the first floor on uncomfortable wooden chairs with vivid serpents snaking up the legs.  Sporting a hint of a beard, Ald looked relatively relaxed and rather handsome dressed in True Religion jeans, a white-and-navy long-sleeved T, and a black full-zip jacket.  The derisive tone was the only thing to give away his true mood.

“I heard that, Fonne-Werde.”

She sneered.  “You get an ‘A’ for A-1 hearing.”

“You, lady, are in no position to get lippy.”

“We found you a dead body.  You should be applauding us.”

With a scowl, he tucked hands into jean pockets and leaned into a wall.  “This isn’t the end.”

“Of course it isn’t,” she snorted.  “There’s a murderer to catch!”

Exchanging sideward glances, Linda and I swallowed amused smiles.

“And that’ll do from you two!”

With Eru (Hyouka) Chitanda innocence, we stated at the detective.

“Those doleful anime expressions don’t get you off the hook.  Haven’t I warned you time and time again about breaking and entering?”

“Mr. Waxx invited us to drop by at any time,” I stated flatly, crossing my arms.  (What was a little white lie?)

Crossing hers, Linda nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Without a key?”

“He wasn’t around, so we let ourselves in.”  I pulled out my cell when Dean crooned.  It was just after midnight and Cash Layton Jones was still calling.  Give the man ten points for resilience.  But then, as he’d once said, we were both as persistent as dogs chomping on bones.

He stepped close and our toes nearly touched.  “You entered without a key.  That’s otherwise described as gaining admittance to someone’s premises without authorization . . . especially after the use of illegal means to gain said entry.”

“Can you prove there was no authorization?  As I said, we had no key, so we had to find another means of access.”  I rose.  “And ‘illegal’ is a rather dodgy word, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” Rey slapped her thigh.  “You say po-tay-toe, we say poe-tah-toh, but it amounts to the same thing: we did your job by finding the poor guy.”

Ald looked from her to me to Linda, and shook his head.  “This is getting too weird for me.  Go home and get some sleep.  We’ll continue tomorrow—in my office at eleven.”

Calling All Writers & Bloggers!

There’s [still] a knee-high pile of articles and emails to plow through re getting a mailing list going, attracting viewers/followers, and making big bucks.  <LMAO>  It sounds so f’g easy.  And, for some, I don’t doubt that it is.  God bless you that have it easy.

As one of the “missions” of this blog is to share information gleaned, I thought I’d touch upon that valuable marketing tool called the “Call to Action Button” (CTA).

It has a plethora of purposes—like getting readers to sign up for your mailing list, subscribing to your blog/website, leading them to your shop, or purchasing a product or service.  You can use these CTAs in posts or add them to a sidebar.  Whatever it is you want your visitor or viewer to do, make sure you have one.  But before you design one, ask yourself this: “what’s the goal of my blog (website)”?

There’s a ton of stuff to be learned about this lovely little tool; given this is a post and not a page or in-depth PDF doc, here are a few highlights (which I’ll apply to mine, when I finally apply a CTA to this blog—and I will).

Make it clear/uncomplicated.  Your visitor should be drawn to it almost immediately.  Let it stand out from the bordering content, so watch what’s around it.  Also, keep an eye on the size of your button.  Too small and it’ll be lost; too big and it’ll take over the screen.

Fun fonts are just that—fun, far-out, and frivolous—but make sure they’re readable.  Keep your lovely call-to-action short and sweet.  Create a sense of urgency, if doable.  Consider words like: “try”, “buy”, “sign up”, “get”, “join”, “start”, and “send” to name but a few (“free” is a pretty good one, too).  Get personal, as well: use “you” and “me”.

Offer a reason (or two) why your visitor should complete your CTA.  And don’t overwhelm him or her by offering too many actions or options.

You can keep them rectangular, as most of them are, or you can opt for something different—circle, box, star, whatever you like.

Remember: while a CTA may look amazing, it may not generate action (i.e. convert traffic), so you’ll want to test it out.

In my Google travels, I came across a couple of free call-to-action button sites (and this is by no means an endorsement, simply a sharing of something found); I’ve not tried them.  You may want to check them out (like I plan to) to see where they take you.  But, like I always say: do your due diligence.  Learn what’s out there: absorb and apply . . . and have some fun, too.

http://buttonoptimizer.com

https://dabuttonfactory.com

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A Tale of Non-Success

Mr. X, a fictional character (or maybe not), and his foray into the publishing world make for some solid do’s and don’ts about doing just that: entering the intriguing, if not intimidating, writing world.

As a non-editor and non-researcher, Mr. X’s fiction writing leans towards the flat.  The ideas are sound; the execution not so much.  The gent has never seen any reason to edit his work or engage someone to do it, listen to opinions, or take advice.  Confidence is a very good thing; egoism probably not so much.

Not understanding why he couldn’t attract a traditional publisher or agent, Mr. X figured he go the self-publishing route—i.e. use a vanity (or subsidy) press.  Wouldn’t you know it?  He picked a press that has one of the worst reputations out there (we’ll be kind and keep it nameless).  As a non-researcher, he’d simply gone with whoever tickled his fancy.  (As an FYI, it took a good decade for him to discover his “publisher” had received a copious amount of bad press and wasn’t respected by legitimate publishers and agents.  Better late than never, as the saying goes.)

The point?  Do your due diligence.  And do it well.

Kudos to Mr. X, though, for strength of conviction.  He determined that his first book was so good, it should be made into a movie.  So, while penning a few more novels, he started chasing producers and directors, and agents.  Standard we’re-reviewing-your-submission replies were accepted as we’re-really-excited-to-have-your-amazing-stuff responses.  Humbleness is a good thing; arrogance maybe not so much.

In the [very] rare instance that someone requested more information or documentation, he complied . . . and advised where the requester could purchase his book(s).  This almost certainly is not a good thing, my friends.  When someone expresses interest, absorb the cost (consider it an investment) and provide a free copy or two.

Alas, another factor not in his favor: Mr. X didn’t (still doesn’t) care for social media.  As far as he’s concerned, it serves little merit as a promotion or marketing tool.  He’s certain he’ll succeed when “the time is right”.  This may be true, but after nearly 15 years, it seems evident that “the time has passed”.  He’s still not known and has no deals.  Playing ostrich by sticking your head in the sand and avoiding what’s out there—maybe because the truth is daunting or the amount of work/effort is overwhelming—is absolutely fine.  Keep believing you’ll “luck in”.  And, perhaps, you just may.

More conceivable?  You’ll experience success because you made it happen.

Do your due diligence.  And do it well.  We all love a tale with a happy [successful] ending.

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